For breweries, the business of staying in business is more than having a mash tun, fermenters, kegs and growlers. In this story we share an unseen side of operating a business.
Ryan Kitto and James Dulhanty show up at a lot of Indiana craft beer events, impressing me with their high level of engagement with brewers and brewery operations. Curiosity peaked when they were at the Broadway Indianapolis Award Ceremony at Sun King Brewery. “We serve insurance” announces their business card, sized as a tasting glass.
Insurance and craft brewing? What's the true story here? Read on:
NUVO: What do you cover so our brewers can sleep at night?
The true story here is: ‘What is a true craft brewery insurance program?’
Obviously you never want to open a business without having insurance coverage. There are many companies putting out a “brewery insurance program.” There are some good ones out there, but most of them aren’t made to grow with a brewery.
Where we are noticing the gaps and limits on coverages is the actual production side. How does a brewery recover income if brewing is interrupted (because equipment breaks or ingredients spot; if delivery of beer is thwarted; if a vendor has problems and can’t deliver bottles, cans, ingredients?) think about it and it’s a nightmare. In the back of the house where the beer is made, that is the money maker and if something happens and the product can’t be made the brewery needs to be covered properly with the correct limits so they can be made whole again.
Every policy is different because every brewery is different, these coverages are specific to where the business is and where they are headed.
NUVO: What makes Kitto Insurance a 'specialty' in the overall beverage industry? What do you know and do that's specially craft brewery targeted?
There are multiple reasons that makes Kitto Insurance a specialist.
First, this is all we do.
We are Brewers Guild of Indiana members along with BA [Brewers Association] members. We are an agency that focuses on the food and beverage industry. Inside that industry the main focus and goal is to be a partner and a benefit to these craft breweries.
Other agencies around are generalists, they work with construction accounts, apartments, daycares, trucking companies and maybe a brewery here or there. Where that limits them is they aren’t experts in the field of breweries and what is needed on a coverage side to protect them.
With us being in and out of breweries daily, talking with owners about the beer, the system, the business and what is most important to them in protecting this business, we ask the questions that are necessary.
Second, we have surrounded ourselves with multiple insurance companies that specialize in this industry. Other insurance agencies may only have one maybe two insurance companies that will want to write this business. Inside that lies multiple problems.
One problem would be that if there is an issue or claim with one of the carriers and rates go up or they decide to cancel. Then they only have limited options for these brewery owners.
Second is that these companies have limits on certain coverages on the production side that leave breweries exposed once they get to a certain size.
The third and final thing that really separates us from anyone else out there is we developed our own brewery insurance program from the ground up for a company. We met with a few of our brewery clients, got their input on what they would want to see out of a program that will not only grow with them but make sure they are covered the proper way.
Instead of a corporation building this, we did it alongside some of the city’s great local brewers. It’s a win/win situation and we have the exclusive rights to this program.
Taking things even a step further, we work with a lot of different people who help out breweries in regards to their business. Examples of that would be credit card processing, POS vendors, real estate, liquor attorneys, tax help, bookkeeping, fire and security suppression, keg companies and many more.
We aren’t just an agency that handles insurance we can help out or refer out any part of the business that is struggling.
NUVO: When should anyone even remotely considering opening a business seek out the best route for creating a business plan to include the most comprehensive, affordable insurance plan?
If you are planning on opening a brewery, insurance should be one of the first things you look into after finding a location. We handle the bonding for the brewery, which is an initial first step that needs to be taken care of.
Going back to the group we work with, if you are planning on opening a brewery we can put you in front of the right people to help you find a space that fits your needs.
Once a location is found whether you are buying or leasing that space you will need insurance to meet the requirements of a bank or landlord so the thought about this coverage needs to be early in the process.
NUVO: How did you position yourself into this specialty? How does what you do fit in with your passions and values?
For myself I have always loved the craft beer scene and the different styles of beers these guys and gals make. The passion behind what they do for a living fueled my passion to help them out on a different level.
My passion for this industry has me brewing my own beer on occasion and what I think is even cooler is the fact that I brew with some of my clients. Yes, it can be some pretty early mornings but I go in and pick their brains about the industry and learn the ins and outs of the process while I make beer with them. It truly has opened my eyes on how passionate these people are about their product. It has been an awesome learning experience as well, and getting to see that certain beer they have on tap is one I actually help make!
Seeing the whole process of brewing and understanding it from their side has made my job easier. I can then put together the right program that fits their needs and concerns because I have spent some time learning and understanding the industry.
My goal is to make sure I truly understand what each brewery’s goal is and where they are going as a business. Once I understand that, the value we bring to each other is priceless.
NUVO: Are there cautionary tales regarding insufficient coverage because expert guidance for the nooks & crannies of the specialties of the beverage industry was not available? Any huge oops situations?
We have seen and heard of a few different coverage scenarios where there should have been more. In our experience it has happened on the leakage and tank collapse side. If there isn’t enough coverage then the brewery loses that potential of lost income due to the losses because we need to make sure the beer is insured at a retail value.
The horror stories I have seen have been where the insured was with another agency who didn’t understand the industry and couldn’t offer the right coverages. This can put a bad taste in the owners mouth about the brewery insurance companies and we are here to change that.
NUVO: Add anything else you’d like NUVO readers to know about Kitto and the people who serve at your place?
Our mission is to help out this growing and underserved industry. We are not here to just sell you an insurance policy. We are here to help out in many ways other than just insurance; we can do this because of our knowledge in and around the industry.
Our team includes Deb Meyer and Lyndsey McKnight — both with knowledge about insurance and brewing.
Learn more at: http://www.weserveinsurance.com